In 2008, a 12-year-old fan was attending a Belfast Giants game at the Odessey Arena when something rather commonplace for a hockey game occurred: The puck left the playing surface of the rink during a warm-up session, flew into the stands and unfortunately struck her in the head.
She had a cut above her left eye that needed four stitches to close. Six years later, she carries a scar from that incident; and now, she intends to have the Giants and their arena operators atone for that injury.
The fan, unnamed because she’s a teenager, has filed a £30,000 ($49,596 US) lawsuit against those parties claiming negligence and “failure to carry out a proper risk assessment.” According to the Belfast Telegraph, “it was also alleged that allowing multiple pucks to be used in a warm-up session without a referee's supervision was negligent.”
The defendants argued that the arena met IIHF safety standards, including protective glass and netting that protected fans seated in back of the goals from pucks, like the NHL erected after the death of Brittanie Cecil in 2002.
Brian Fee QC, for the girl, contended that these measures did not go far enough. He said: "This is a case where there's a recognised high risk that a puck is going to come out and endanger two sections - Odyssey staff or the public."
According to Mr Fee it was irrelevant that netting had been put up behind the goals. His client was seated in another part of the arena. He added: "If there's a situation where there are multiple pucks in play the warning (given) is, if not useless, virtually useless."
If the fan wins the lawsuit, it’ll mark the first time in the history of ice hockey in the U.K. that a fan is rewarded damages for being struck by the puck.
Does she have a case? You’d expect if the rink followed the protocols of a governing body of the sport and conformed with other buildings’ standards, the answer would be “she doesn’t.”
Unless the judge goes with the notion that the netting doesn’t cover the entire crowd, and hence the arena was negligent in protecting her. In which case, get ready to watch hockey in the U.K. through 360-degree mosquito netting, going forward.